[Photo by Nick Sethi]

With Trouble The Water, Show Me The Body capture the riotous spirit of their live shows

Since their inception in 2009, Show Me The Body’s music has always been a place of solace for people across many diverse backgrounds. In the time that has passed since their critically acclaimed sophomore album, 2019’s Dog Whistle, the politically charged, progressive-hardcore trio were faced with a pandemic, the absence of live shows and a society that felt like it was on a continual downward spiral. While the world has undergone a series of changes in the last three years, vocalist, banjo and programmer Julian Cashwan Pratt is quick to say that for Show Me The Body, this was business as usual, even if they couldn’t pile hundreds of bodies into a room for their chaotic yet cathartic live shows. 

“Although the world has been changing around us recently, the messages and the music have remained the same and are nonreactionary,” Pratt says while rolling a joint on a patio in Los Angeles during an off day following their appearance at this year’s Desert Daze in Southern California. “What we try to do and communicate is ever present with those around us, whether that’s a strong sense of family, community-building as direct action, militancy within your own life and educating yourself –– these are all the things we would talk about even in a post-pandemic world.”

Read more: 20 bands that shaped hardcore’s evolution, from Bad Brains to Soul Glo

Show Me The Body are indeed so much more than a musical project –– it’s a network of creatives and a community-driven collective that enacts change in a world of injustice, economic despair and displacement all through the spirit of highly engaging punk music that pushes the boundaries of genre and societal limitations. The band operate as a collective known as CORPUS, and during the pandemic, they were still able to engage with their community, specifically in New York City where they’re based.

“Our community is not on the internet; it’s real life and in our city. The pandemic allowed us to do weekly CORPUS meetings and have our initiatives at the forefront,” Pratt says when reflecting on the band’s pandemic-proof mission. Seated next to Pratt is bassist and synth player Harlan Steed, who admits that the absence of live shows may have played a role in the sense of energy that’s found on the band’s staggering new record, Trouble The Water.

[Photo by Nick Sethi] [Photo by Nick Sethi]

“Performing for us is very much the oxygen that we thrive and live on, and to not be able to do that for three years was an intense feeling,” Steed notes. “We all wanted to get back on the road, but it also served as ammunition in writing this record and making the most refined Show Me The Body record possible.” Pratt nods, adding, “The record is not done until we get to make the ceremony with it. The live show is for everybody in the room who participates.” 

Lyrically, Trouble The Water expands on the themes of the dark side of capitalism “The record is a continuation of what we have been witnessing our whole fucking lives with our city being turned into a playground and people being treated like they can be shipped around,” Pratt explains. “The hardlines of capitalism are there but we definitely witnessed the pandemic, although awful, giving us more time to be in the streets. It was beautiful for everyone to be together and become militant together.” Make no mistake, though: This record is “not reactionary” to current events but is instead a result of a band that got “closer to what they are trying to express,” Steed says.

Though the band continue to reach wider audiences through their compelling blend of industrial, post-punk, hardcore and electronic music, coupled with a major record deal with Loma Vista, they’re aware of the machine that is behind the music industry as a whole. When more money and industry hands come in, there’s always the risk that those factors will take the spirit out of the music and become a direct conflict of personal morals. “It’s an odd reality for us,” Steed says. “With Show Me The Body, we reflect against those awful things, but it is an obstacle course for us.” 

Pratt is admittedly more outspoken on the topic of capitalism and how it inevitably has an effect on the band’s mission, but he’s confident that their presence will ultimately lead to widespread change within an industry that has been plagued with injustices and striking power imbalances. “Life is dangerous, but as a punk band, we have never had the mentality to disappear and romanticize not working hard. I want to be successful and get into the building so it can be rearranged. I don’t want to be a crazy person outside. I want to be in there helping to burn it down,” Pratt stresses.

[Photo by Nick Sethi] [Photo by Nick Sethi]

Sonically, Show Me The Body’s music is a protest in itself. Unconventional song structures and a penchant for constant evolution and experimentation permeate their sound, elements that the band have been diving deeper into with their latest album. “As the band progresses, we experiment and change our roles when we get into the studio and finish each other’s sentences with new ideas,” Steed says. “Whether it’s a wailing, banjo or synthesizer, it adds to the fullness of our sound. We’re always trying to surpass the last thing we did.” 

Of course, the band are fully aware that following up the critical acclaim and success of Dog Whistle was an enormous task. In talking to the band, however, it’s clear that they feel they have accomplished their mission and stand by their work wholeheartedly. When asked if they think Trouble The Water is the pinnacle of their sound thus far, the band unequivocally agree. “It was a labor of love, but it’s the most Show Me The Body record so far,” Steed says with assuredness. 

On Trouble The Water, the phrase “labor of love” rings true, with the band going as far as building the studio that it was recorded from the ground up. Speaking on the DIY nature behind the recording process, Steed notes, “It was less time fussing about how things sound but more so how the songs should be. If we can believe the sonics are what they should be, we can make our ideas stronger than ever, and we were really fortunate for that with this record.” Because the live show is so paramount to understanding Show Me The Body, the band were adamant about capturing that riotous spirit in the studio. In fact, Steed says “WW4” is a true embodiment of that process. “We were all set up in a room tracking it live, and, almost seamlessly, an ambulance comes by with its siren at the perfect moment, and now that is in on the record. We got a photographic scene for free, and that was definitely a lightning-in-a-bottle moment.” 

While the recording process for Trouble The Water was a creatively stimulating experience that allowed for continual exploration of new sounds, Pratt also reopened old wounds and relived past traumas. During the creation of Trouble The Water, Pratt essentially went to war within himself to make the most vulnerable and honest collection of songs possible. “There’s no celebration [during recording], and when it’s [finished], you can celebrate a little bit, but not too much,” he says. “It has to be great; it can’t just be good. Good is full of shit.” 

Now that Show Me The Body are entering another new era with Trouble The Water, the band are looking globally this time around to expand their mission, ethos and the work that is done day in and day out through their collective CORPUS. “We have cultivated something in New York and even Los Angeles, but the whole goal is to provide shelter, whether physical or a realm of an idea or thought, to anyone who needs it,” Pratt assures.